This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A copy of the text of this speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library.
THE PRESIDENT’S SOUTH AMERICAN TOUR
No area of the world will receive greater American attention in the next few weeks than the area which President Eisenhower will soon visit on a goodwill tour – the continent of South America. I am sure that in Latin America – as in the other parts of the world which he has visited – the President will receive the acclaim – the applause – and the friendly demonstrations – which are a tribute not only to his personal popularity but their respect for this nation as the hope of freedom.
But let us not be misled by this display. For behind those cheers – behind the handshakes and the smiles – will lurk the same unsolved problems – the same bitter resentments – the same disappointed hopes – which resulted in the violent attacks on Vice President Nixon when he went to South America as the representative of the United States.
These attacks shocked and alarmed all Americans. They were the outbreak of powerful and growing anti-American feelings in countries which we had long considered our faithful friends – our steadfast allies – our good neighbors. They illuminated the blindness, the half-heartedness and the failures of our policies toward nations whose past friendship we had taken for granted – and whose continued friendship is essential to our security and strength. And, above all, these attacks taught us that if we did not act soon and decisively – to help Latin America emerge from the poverty, the hunger, the disease and the economic distress which now blanket so much of that vast continent – then the democratic institutions of the entire hemisphere would be in danger.
The President will visit four South American countries – Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Each of these countries is different – each has a different history, different recourses and different needs. But in many important respects all four are alike – and they share the problems of all of South America.
All four are democracies – some with long democratic traditions, others struggling to establish democratic institutions. All four are trying to achieve rapid economic growth and a higher standard of living. All four are facing serious political problems – with the stability of the government depending on economic success. And all four are evidence of the inadequacy of our present policies in Latin America – and the need for new creative and dynamic policies if we are to meet the needs of the sixties.
The first country which the President will visit is Brazil. It is Brazil’s destiny to become the other great power of the Western Hemisphere. And why not? Brazil is larger than the continental United States – rich in natural resources – with a vigorous and rapidly expanding population of more than seventy-five million. In many ways Brazil is like the United States of 100 years ago. Her population is concentrated in a narrow strip of land along the coast – her vast western lands lie unexplored and unexploited. The young man in Brazil – like the American pioneer of old – looks westward for his own future, and for the future of his country. And – also like the American pioneer – to the Brazilian of today nothing is impossible. He thinks of Brazil as Thomas Jefferson thought of the United States: “A rising nation spread over a wide and fruitful land… advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye.” The Brazilians intend to struggle and dare to make that destiny a reality.
But the Brazilians also have problems which the young American did not have to face. They are trying to compress the history of the last hundred years into a few decades – to propel Brazil’s economy and standard of living into the modern world faster than her present resources permit. They are confronted with a political situation in which the ideals and institutions of modern democracy have not yet been completely accepted by all the people. And, finally, the Brazilians are developing their nation at the time when international Communism is on the prowl – waiting to take advantage of any weaknesses in the democratic system – waiting to take advantage of whatever discontent and difficulties rapid economic progress might bring.
To meet these problems and avoid these dangers – Brazil – like the other developing nations of South America – needs investment capital – capital to help her develop the transportation, the power and the basic industries which her economy needs if it is to meet the rising demands of her people. And to help supply that capital the efforts of American business and the American government are needed.
Private American enterprise has not yet seen the great potential of Brazil – they have not yet fully grasped the chance to invest in an economy which is soon to be one of the largest and most productive in the world. For example, a representative of one major American steel company has said that his company is not interested in Brazil. “Brazil,” he said, “is not yet ready for a steel industry.”
But the facts of the matter are that both Japanese and German companies have recently decided to build steel plants in Brazil. And her expanding economy will soon be desperate for even more steel. We need to encourage our private business – to alert them to the great opportunities in Brazil – to help them meet the great unfilled needs of the Brazilians – if we are to help build Brazil’s strength and at the same time our own.
But private capital is not enough – we must expand our own programs of aid and investment. In 1952 the United States helped the Brazilians to establish a National Development Bank – and agreed to make available 500 million dollars for Brazilian economic development. The people of that nation hailed this more as a symbol of American’s friendship – a long and important stride towards building a healthy economy in Brazil. But – little more than a year later – without warning – President Eisenhower announced that the program was over – that we would give no more money to the bank. Even our strongest friends in Brazil rose up in protest – there were anti-American demonstrations – the Brazilians felt defrauded, cheated – they saw their dreams of productivity – of a better life – being bitterly frustrated.
Today, eight years later, we must renew the flow of capital to Brazil – this time in the connection with a program of help to all South America. By helping the newly established Inter-American Development Loan Bank and making possible long-range cooperative economic planning for all of South America – we can begin to recapture the friendship of the Brazilians, and build the economic strength which will re-vitalize the entire hemisphere.
The second country the President will visit is Argentina. This is not, as you know, a country with a consistent tradition of freedom. It is a land where democracy is struggling for existence, after the long years of a dictatorship which wasted the nation’s resources – which almost destroyed its economy – and which left seeds of unrest and discontent which will trouble the development of Argentina for generations to come. It is also a graphic illustration how American support of dictators has harmed the cause of freedom and bred hostility among the people.
I do not say that we should have tried to tell the Argentines what form of government to have – but neither should we have embarked on such an open and friendly support of the brutal and repressive Peron dictatorship. During the Peron regime we praised his conduct of the government. We helped him with programs which outraged national sensibilities of the Argentine people, because of the drastic concessions these programs made to private American oil companies. And –in the closing days of Peron rule – our Secretary f the Navy visited Argentina and compared this ruthless ruler to Abraham Lincoln. It is these policies which have left seeds of distrust in Argentina. They have, in fact, created anti-American feeling and harmed the cause of freedom throughout all Latin America.
Peron is gone. But the unhappy heritage of his wasteful and unhealthy rule remain: the decline of the Argentine capital – the deterioration of railroads – the scarcity of agricultural equipment – the run-down highway system – the outdated factories with their obsolete equipment. To meet this crisis President Frondizi has embarked upon a vigorous and politically unpopular course – he has asked the people to accept a program which denies them badly needed wage increases and consumer goods until he can stabilize the peso, increase local capital and get the economy back on its feet.
But he cannot do it alone. Peron made no such demands – he kept their attention diverted – and the voters do not realize that Peron’s chickens have now come home to roost. If we do not help Argentina soon – with capital from the inter-American Development Loan Fund – with technical assistance – and with an increased flow of private investment – this already shaky democracy may falter – and once more succumb to totalitarian rule.
The third country which the President will visit is Chile. There he will see nation devoted to democracy – a country which has gone through a serious of political and economic crises which would have brought dictatorship to almost any other country in Latin America – but a country which, through every emergency, has clung to its democratic way of life as the only true solution to its pressing problems.
Chile shares the economic problems of most of Latin America. It lacks capital to develop diversified industry – to decrease its dependence on copper mining which along accounts for more than half of the Government’s budget. Its agricultural development has lagged far behind the growth of the rest of its economy. The result is that Chile – once blessed with agricultural abundance – now must import much of her food. And running through all these problems and greatly accentuating them has been a disastrous inflation – which is 1955 resulted in a 90 per cent rise in the cost of living in a single year.
The new government of Chile – under President Jorge Alessandri – has begun a bold, ambitious and so far successful program to meet these problems. In the last few years prices have leveled off, the budget has been balanced and foreign capital has begun to return. Yet Chile needs help if it is to make its dream of a growing and diversified and stable economy a reality. Of especial urgency is the problem of agriculture – American loans and aid are needed for road construction in rural areas – for the importation of agricultural machinery. And Chileans need technical assistance to introduce those modern methods of agriculture which the United States has perfected – and to teach them how to use them.
The last country the President will visit is Uruguay. Uruguay too has a durable democratic tradition – since 1904 its government has been devoted to political and personal freedom – and under that democracy – a democracy long the object of the hostility of surrounding dictators – the Uruguayans have built a highly diversified economy.
Yet today Uruguay is in the midst of an economic crisis. An overproduction of wheat – and a deterioration of capital equipment – coupled with a decline in Uruguayan trade – have caused a rapidly growing inflation and a decline in the value of the peso. A new and serious unrest and discontent now trouble this historic democracy.
Yet we in this country have offered very little in the way of help. Uruguay needs capital – and – even more important than capital – technical assistance and training – to help her to solve her growing agricultural problems – and to develop her lone natural resource – hydro-electric power. By increasing our program of technical assistance – by helping to train Uruguayan youth in modern methods of power development and soil cultivation – we can do much to strengthen freedom in a land devoted to freedom.
In these four democracies the President will see – at first hand – the magnitude of Latin America’s challenge to American policy – and American vision. He will see four countries intensely determined to press forward in their quest for increased productivity – greater human welfare – and higher standards of living. He will see four countries which have embraced democracy – but in which democracy must meet the challenges of the sixties if it is to survive. He will see four nations in which anti-American feeling – inflamed by our failures of policy, our support of dictators, our neglect of Latin American needs for capital – is becoming daily more intensive and more dangerous. He will see four nations which represent a vast continent in the midst of a vast revolution – the worldwide revolution of hope and expectation. He will see a continent at the crossroads – a continent which must choose. As Chester Bowles has said: “The real choice in Latin America, as in Asia and Africa, is citizenship or serfdom, hope or despair, orderly political growth or economic upheaval. Our failure to understand this choice would be catastrophic.”
Let us wish the President well on his trip. And let us hope that he brings back with him, to convey to all Americans, this vital understanding of a vital continent to the South.